• April 21, 2015

Plaintiffs Henry Watkins and Kevin Cross worked for “I.G. Incorporated, d/b/a Industrial Staffing” and/or they worked for “TFG, LLC d/b/a Industrial Staffing.” (This shell game of employers was one of many hurdles plaintiffs faced in their lawsuit.) Plaintiffs’ job was to clean up a Target Field, a Minneapolis sports facility, after events. Their work-day would start at a “staging area,” where they would have to sit and wait to be transported to Target Field to do their cleaning jobs.

josh_photo_newThe employers apparently did not compensate their workers for the time that the workers had to sit around and wait to be ferried over to their work site from their staging area.

Plaintiffs’ counsel, Josh Williams, took the employers to court, up to and through a successful jury verdict on claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

The battle was hard-fought and Williams was up against polished and talented adversary. Learn more about the trial after the break.

Williams went to trial against Dennis Johnson of the Chestnut & Cambronne firm. In a conversation with Williams last week, Williams told Minnesota Litigator that he quite admired and respected Mr. Johnson’s polished trial skills. (Minnesota Litigator called Mr. Johnson for a comment but Mr. Johnson did not return the call.)

Hennepin County District Court Judge Laurie Miller presided over the trial.

Williams tells me that someone with knowledge of the case can glean from the jury’s special verdict form that the jury concluded that workers were unpaid (and should have been paid) for 30 minutes of wait time.

How big is the case? Apparently there were 42,096 shifts during the time period in question and about 1,300 workers. Workers were paid $9.50 per hour so, at each shift, they did not get about $4.62 they should have been paid (according to the jury). The jury verdict form appears to say that the class damages are $194,914.48 (answer to Question 6 (which corresponds to 42,096 x $4.62)) or, alternately, $15,593.12 (answer to question 12). Which is it? Both? Williams tells me that the first award was for the breach of contract and the second award for unjust enrichment. Judge Miller might have to decide whether those awards are cumulative or alternative “either/or” awards. Regardless, a satisfying win for the plaintiffs and their counsel. And with 10% preverdict interest in the tens of thousands of dollars to date and growing the $194,914.48 award by the day, who knows? Maybe plaintiffs actually WANT the defendants to appeal?

Plaintiffs originally brought the case in federal court but the Fair Labor Standards Act claim, the “federal jurisdiction hook,” was thrown out and the case was remanded to state court. Plaintiff then had to survive motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, an attempted interlocutory appeal on class certification, and a 5 day trial (from picking the jury through closing arguments). Williams had to work hard to get this case across the finish line to victory.

Finally, a practice pointer for the solo trial lawyer: Williams spoke highly of the Ipevo “document cam,” that he used at trial, a simple cheap device to project hard copy documents through a VGA projector.

And another practice pointer for the solo lawyer with a practice like Williams’ — that is, someone who gets many potential client calls and has to work a lot at “triage” (a.k.a. “case selection”) — Williams speaks highly of Ruby Receptionist, “your real live virtual receptionist.” It is not inexpensive but when you have a practice like Williams’s, I gather having some solution for fielding the many calls and inquiries you get is indispensable.

 

 

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